Sri Lanka’s entire cabinet aside from the president and his sibling prime minister resigned from their posts Sunday as the ruling political clan seeks to resolve a mounting economic crisis, with a social media blackout failing to halt another day of anti-government demonstrations.
The South Asian island nation is facing severe shortages of food, fuel and other essentials – along with record inflation and crippling power cuts – in its most painful downturn since independence from Britain in 1948.
All 26 ministers in the cabinet aside from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his elder brother Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa submitted letters of resignation at a late-night meeting, education minister Dinesh Gunawardena told reporters.
The move clears the way for the president to appoint a new cabinet on Monday – and some of those stepping down may be reappointed.
It came with the country under a state of emergency imposed after a crowd attempted to storm the president’s home in the capital Colombo, and a nationwide curfew in effect until Monday morning.
Earlier, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), Sri Lanka’s main opposition alliance, denounced a social media blackout aimed at quelling intensifying public demonstrations and said it was time for the government to resign.
“President Rajapaksa better realise that the tide has already turned on his autocratic rule,” SJB lawmaker Harsha de Silva told AFP.
Troops armed with automatic assault rifles moved to stop a protest by opposition lawmakers and hundreds of their supporters attempting to march to the capital’s Independence Square.
The road was barricaded a few hundred metres from the home of opposition leader Sajith Premadasa, and the crowd engaged in a tense stand-off with security forces for nearly two hours before dispersing peacefully.
Eran Wickramaratne, another SLB lawmaker, condemned the state of emergency declaration and the presence of troops on city streets.
“We can’t allow a military takeover,” he said. “They should know we are still a democracy.”
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ROYAL NEWS eCopy March 28, 2022
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